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Saturday

April 2014

19

Chinese and KM students share holiday traditions from two ends of the globe

From mooncakes to 'Jingle Bells' students exchange what life is like in different parts of the world

What do Dousman Elementary first-graders and third-grade English learners in No. 2 Shigang Street Primary School in Shijiazhung, Hebei China have in common? They both have a deep curiosity about each other's daily lives and their principals, Brian Stuckey, from Dousman, and Mr. Guo, from China.

Both principals have traveled to each other's school to learn and share. Stucky visited China last spring, returning with the names of teachers from No. 2 Shigang Street Primary School who would like to make a connection with an American school. Knowing what an authentic writing and learning opportunity this would be, Dousman Elementary first-grade teacher, Yvonne Jastrow, jumped at the chance to let her students correspond.

Jastrow's class began by writing and emailing individual introductory letters for third-grade teacher, Xiaoying Liu, to use with her English learners. Jastrow's students were thrilled when they received a reply teaching them about how the people in China celebrate a special holiday called Mid-Autumn Day.

Students learned that this holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. On that day, the moon is extremely bright and perfectly round. The festival represents the unity and leisure of the people as well as the harvest of nature. People send their relatives and friends mooncakes as a festival gift.

Jastrow's class watched a video showing how mooncakes are made and then read the book, "Mooncake," by Frank Asch. "I loved learning about how they make those mooncakes!" said Dousman first-grader Cevanna Carman.

Dousman first-graders were hooked and eager to teach their newfound friends in China about some special holidays in America. They wrote a collaborative narrative describing Halloween, complete with details of trick-or-treating. Parents assisted by emailing Jastrow photos of their child in costume so a class collage could be made and sent.

Next, the first-graders got right to work teaching about the first Thanksgiving through a collaborative class book, which was scanned and sent over to Liu and her English learners.

Liu said her students thoroughly enjoyed learning about Thanksgiving. In addition, she explained how her students always have "English Week" the last week of December where they speak English, learn about American Christmas customs and even tell riddles in English.

Dousman students thought they would help out. So during December, Jastrow's class wrote and sent heartfelt pieces describing their favorite family holiday tradition.

"I climb the ladder to put the white unicorn on the top of our Christmas tree every year!" wrote Emma Schlueter. They also shared a video of themselves singing "Jingle Bells" and sent some favorite riddles. Jastrow's class is now anxiously waiting to learn about favorite Chinese New Year traditions from their new friends.

Plans are in the works for a Valentine exchange (through Google Hangout), making an iMovie of a typical day in the classroom, and even a possible Skype session (the time difference can be a challenge!)

"There are endless ways to bring children from two very distant dots on a map, closer together," reported Jastrow. Gage Jopek, summed it up, "It's so much fun when they tell us what goes on over there and we tell them what goes on over here!"

Learn how to make moon cakes at: http://www.china highlights.com/travelguide/culture/mooncake.htm.

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